QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) *** advanced movie review by COOP

Posted on November 12th, 2008
Posted on November 12th, 2008

The most unwieldy James Bond title so far, “Quantum of Solace” means the amount (quantum) of revenge it’s going to take for Bond to find peace (solace) after the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd. Daniel Craig returns as Bond after scoring a slam dunk with critics and hard-to-please fans of the franchise with “Casino Royale.” After the overwhelming success of “Royale,” this much-anticipated sequel was fast-tracked by the studios to release as soon as possible. This made me nervous because studios playing fast and loose with 007 usually end up with a sloppy franchise entry (anybody remember “Never Say Never Again?”). It’s still a good entry for the franchise, but I’m sorry to say my instincts about the “fast and loose” were right on the money.

“Quantum” continues mere minutes after the final scene in “Royale,” a first for the franchise. Bond careens around mountainous, Italian curves in his Aston Martin with the bad guys giving chase and blasting off pieces of the expensive car with their machine guns. After blowing them off the road, Bond makes it to a safe house and opens the trunk. Inside is White, the mystery man he believes is responsible for Vesper’s death. Soon Bond learns that the conspiracy goes deeper than one man and his own people can’t be trusted. He follows the bread crumbs to Haiti where he discovers Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almalric), a devious power broker orchestrating coups and shady business deals with government leaders. When Greene tries to execute his double-dealing spy girlfriend, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), Bond compromises his mission by coming to her aid.

Daniel Craig continues to impress as a tough and interesting Bond actor. I hesitate to say he’s my favorite so far since he’s not a suave as Connery or as witty as Moore. He’s more intimidating than Dalton, tougher than Brosnan and definitely more memorable than Lazenby. If he would crack a smile occasionally and portray his character like a smooth spy instead of a robotic assassin, I’d say he’d be about perfect…But then that’s also part of his appeal as a different, harder edged Bond without the silly one-liners. Judy Dench reprises her role of M in her usual stiff manner. Jeffrey Wright once again doesn’t get much screen time as Felix Leiter. Kurylenko plays a standard lead Bond girl but gets no romantic scenes with Craig, another franchise first. Only Amalric gets to chew the scenery as the slimy villain Greene, but unfortunately he’s not all that tough.

“Quantum’s” saving graces manifest in the form of lightning-fast pacing and exciting action scenes. Bond’s fights and chases are well choreographed and executed. It never gets boring and thankfully that makes up for its unsatisfying ending. It would appear the intention is to leave some plot threads dangling to allow the next sequel to continue where the last left off. That was fine for “Royale” but unnecessary to repeat. Stand-alone movies offer up a variety of possibilities (Bond in space!… just kidding). I’m going to get really bored if Bond has to chase the same people film after film.

This film makes a substantial departure from the original franchise by shortening the running time and omitting a bit more of the Bond mythology. I can’t say I like any of these changes as it actually harms the quality of “Quantum.” He never says, “Bond… James Bond.” The standard rifled gun barrel gag from the beginning of all other Bond films (besides “Dr. No”) is inexplicably removed from the opening and placed at the closing credits. We still have no Moneypenny or Q. Bond goes rogue… again. These points may sound nitpicky, but string a bunch of nitpicks together and you have a slightly disappointing movie. To make matters worse, we are never clued-in to mysteries of the shadow organization, known only as “Quantum.” Well, Bond discovers info on them but he neglects to share, making the lousy double entendre title frustrating and pointless. It’s like watching “The Usual Suspects” and never finding out Kaiser Soze’s identity. What ever happened to the terrorist organization “Spectre” from the original franchise? They could’ve used that instead and made the title “The Spectre of Revenge.” Not bad, I’ll take credit for that.

I also failed to appreciate the annoying opening credits song written and performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys. Before her new career as a professional train wreck, Amy Winehouse was hired to write and perform the song for “Quantum” but execs fired her after one of her very public meltdowns. Thinking they had dodged a bullet, producers hired White/Keys instead. I can’t imagine a boozy Winehouse song being much better than this dated-sounding Destiny’s Child rip-off. On the upside, it was better than Madonna’s techno-trashy Bond song, “Die Another Day.” White and Keys can at least take comfort in that.

I did enjoy “Quantum,” but I feel I have to warn the filmmakers from straying too far from the source. This is James Bond, not Jason Bourne or Batman. Keep the pace fast, the action hot and let him kick up his heels with a martini every once in awhile. Fans want to fantasize about being Bond, but they won’t envy the guy anymore if he becomes sullen, humorless and miserable.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here’s the trailer…

…and to lighten the mood, here’s Joe Cornish’s hilarious “Quantum of Solace” song that I almost wish was attached to the beginning of the film…

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